How Sound Machines Can Promote Sleep & 9 Of The Best Options For Snoozing

mbg ContributorBy Julia Guerra

Expert review byAshley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN

Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy

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February 24, 2022 — 13:05 PM

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Sometimes falling asleep feels like a math equation; only a specific formula will get you from point A to point Zzz.

Your bedroom might be too hot or too cold. Maybe you’re on a sugar high from dessert or have been overexposed to blue light from your devices. The culprit could also be various noises keeping you up at night, and if that’s the case, you might want to consider investing in a sound machine to drown out any unwanted commotion disrupting your ability to snooze.

How sound machines can benefit sleep.

Sound machines are devices that mask disruptive noises in your environment. They’re often used to help lull newborns and little ones to sleep but have the same effect on adults, too.

That being said, there isn’t enough research to definitively say whether or not the specific sounds and frequencies emitted by these machines improve the quality of sleep. But, placebo effect or not, according to co-founders of The Happy Sleeper and authors of Generation Sleepless, Heather Turgeon, MFT, and Julie Wright, MFT, some people just prefer to fall asleep to some sound.sleep support+The deep and restorative sleep you’ve always dreamt about*★ ★ ★ ★ ★★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (234)SHOP NOW

“Some people would rather not sleep in a completely quiet room,” Turgeon and Wright tell mbg. “For others, [turning on their sound machine] becomes a habit or a cue that it’s time for sleep.” 

Depending on the device, sound machines can emit a myriad of noises to suit the user’s preference. These typically include nature and ambient sounds, like rain falling or city traffic, as well as white, pink, brown, or blue noise.

Sleep expert and head of content at Saatva Christina Heiser notes that white noise is a “sound that remains consistent across all hearable frequencies” and “creates a masking effect, blocking out the sudden changes in noise—like snoring, or the dog barking, or a truck rumbling down the street.” Pink, brown, and blue noise are all slightly different sound frequencies used for the same purpose: to mask the noises in your environment that might keep you from falling asleep.

Generally speaking, there’s little risk in trying a sound machine to get some quality shut-eye, despite the misconception that falling asleep to white noise or ambient sounds isn’t healthy.

According to co-owner of Nolah Mattress and certified sleep science coach, Stephen Light, some people think it’s best to sleep in silence, but this doesn’t take into account the diversity of people’s living situations and how they affect their ability to get a good night’s sleep.

“If ambient noise blocks out a loud street, a noisy roommate, or simply your anxious thoughts as you lie in bed, the benefits likely outweigh any risks,” he tells mbg. And as long as your sound machine emits sound at the appropriate decibel level (60 decibels or less), CEO and certified sleep specialist at My Sweet Sleeper Rachel Mitchell adds “there are no known issues with its long-term use,” either.

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